Journal Article

Constitutionalizing Labour Rights in Canada and Europe: Freedom of Association, Collective Bargaining, and Strikes

Judy Fudge

in Current Legal Problems

Volume 68, issue 1, pages 267-305
Published in print January 2015 | ISSN: 0070-1998
Published online June 2015 | e-ISSN: 2044-8422 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/clp/cuv003
Constitutionalizing Labour Rights in Canada and Europe: Freedom of Association, Collective Bargaining, and Strikes

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Why are unions in Canada and the European Union going to court to claim that the rights to bargain collectively and to strike are fundamental human rights and thus constitutionally protected? My approach to this question is socio-legal; I am interested in what this form of claims making reveals about how political power is legitimated in the contemporary global world. I argue that the goal of constitutionalizing labour rights is a specific example of the broader and much more pervasive global constitutionalization that involves a shift in law’s legitimacy from constituent power, the will of the people, and democracy to rights in which courts are the key institutions in a complex transnational constitutionalism. I situate a sociological account of global constitutionalism in relation to the legal literature on multiple constitutions in Canada and Europe. I then turn to examine how international human rights are invoked by trade unions in Canada and the EU to constitutionalize the rights to bargain collectively and to strike, and my specific focus is on how courts deploy these rights in their reasoning and the circulation of international human rights through different adjudicative sites. After recounting how unions’ attempts to constitutionalize labour rights in Canada and at the European level have fared, I discuss the controversy over the right to strike that has engulfed the International Labour Organization’s supervisory bodies. To conclude, I consider whether the use of international human rights by courts to interpret the scope of freedom of association exacerbates or ameliorates the displacement of democracy and constituent power as a basis of political legitimacy in global constitutionalism.

Journal Article.  16577 words. 

Subjects: Law ; Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law ; Law and Society ; Politics and Law

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